October 6, 2011 1:37:00 PM
Generation after generation, Mississippi, as a law, has preached abstinence only.
For all its preaching, the state still is No. 3 in the nation (behind New Mexico and Texas) in mothers ages 15-19 and has woeful numbers of teens contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
The state's rate of teenage mothers is 110 out of every 1,000, according to the 2011 Kids Count Data Book. The national rate is 73 out of every 1,000.
According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, 9,955 children ages 10-19 contracted an STD in 2008.
Next school year, for the first time, districts will be required to offer sex education, choosing either abstinence or abstinence-plus programs.
With abstinence-plus, curriculum would include teaching about birth control and safe sex practices.
Introducing sex education curriculum is long overdue.
While we wish more teens simply waited for adulthood, preferably marriage, the reality is they're not.
Teenagers are having sex. There, we said it.
And they are perpetuating a cycle of unwed young parents, STD's and, in many cases, poverty.
Teaching sex education does not condone premarital sex just as teaching the Holocaust doesn't condone genocide. Rather, sex education arms our teens with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions in the sexual situations they will inevitably face.
Those adamantly against comprehensive sex education argue it's a home and church matter.
But with statistics as they are, it's also a social, public health and economic matter.
The Starkville school board paved the way locally in adding abstinence-plus to classroom instruction. On the advice of the Mississippi School Boards Association, the Starkville board of education passed the curriculum change at a Tuesday meeting. Parents must opt in to the course for their children to participate.
Other districts should follow suit.
While it's nice to dream of a world where teenagers aren't having sex, it's time Mississippi face a harsh reality: Teaching abstinence-only does not work.